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Earth's Children #6

The Land of Painted Caves

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In The land of Painted Caves, Jean M. Auel brings the ice-age epic Earth's Children series to an extraordinary conclusion. Ayla, one of the most remarkable and beloved heroines in contemporary fiction, continues to explore the world and the people around her with curiosity, insight, and above all, courage.

As the story opens, Ayla, Jondalar, and their infant daughter, Jonayla are welcomed by the Zelandonii, but problems arise. They are faced with new challenges, not just the ordinary trials of sheer survival, but the complications posed by many groups of people who need to live and work together. The wisdom that Ayla gained from her struggles as an orphaned child, alone in a hostile environment, strengthens her as she moves closer to leadership of the Zelandonia.

Ayla and Jondalar's first priority is the care for their golden-haired child, Jonayla, and the well-being of their amazing animals, Wolf, Whinney, Racer, and Gray. The two participate in hunts to provide food, in travels to Summer Meetings for decision making, and in social activities. Whatever the obstacles, Ayla's inventive spirit produces new ways to lessen the difficulties of daily life: searching for wild edibles to make delicious meals, experimenting with techniques to ease the long journeys the Zelandoni must take, honing her skills as a healer and a leader. And then, there are the Sacred Caves, the caves that Ayla's mentor--the Donier, the First of the Zelandonia--takes her to see. These caves are filled with remarkable art--paintings of mammoths, lions, aurochs, rhinoceros, reindeer, bison, bear. The powerful, mystical aura within these caves sometimes overwhelms Ayla.

Ayla's final preparations for her initiation as a Zelandoni bring The Land of Painted Caves to a riveting climax. So much time apart from Jondalar has caused him to drift away from her. The rituals themselves bring her close to death. But through those rituals, Ayla gains A Gift of Knowledge so important that it will change the world.

Spellbinding drama, meticulous research, fascinating detail, and superb narrative skill combine to make The Land of Painted Caves a captivating, utterly believable creation of a civilization that resonates long after the reader has turned the last page, and serves as an astonishing end to this beloved saga.

828 pages, Hardcover

First published March 29, 2011

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About the author

Jean M. Auel

55 books3,849 followers
Jean M. Auel, née Jean Marie Untinen is an American author best known for her Earth's Children books, a series of historical fiction novels set in prehistoric Europe that explores interactions of Cro-Magnon people with Neanderthals. As of 2010 her books have sold more than 45 million copies worldwide, in many translations.

Auel attended University of Portland, and earned an MBA in 1976. She received honorary degrees from her alma mater, as well as the University of Maine and the Mount Vernon College for Women. She and her husband, Ray Bernard Auel, have five children and live in Portland, Oregon.

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Profile Image for Crystal Starr Light.
1,357 reviews831 followers
February 8, 2022
Excuse me, I have some paint I need to watch dry

Ayla trains to be a Zelandani. Ayla goes to many caves. Ayla unveils the Big Secret (that readers have known about since Book 1). The End.

*****Spoilers Abound Like Mad. Ye Have Been Warned.*****

My God. If I thought the last book was fan fiction, I have no idea what to call this piece of sh!t. “Boring”, “disappointing”, “stupid”, “mindless waste of time and paper”, and “underwhelming” all come to mind. But no words can describe how absolutely horrible this book is.

I don’t like to think I am a person who gives into hyperbole, but this book is probably THE worst book I have EVER read, not to mention THE worst conclusion to a beloved series. It doesn’t wrap up the billion plot threads that have arisen in the previous five books. Characters act largely out of character or like idiots. Two-thirds of the book has no plot, and the last third has a plot that was regurgitated from an earlier book. The writing is horrible. The dialogue is terrible. Whole conversations are dedicated to one character telling another about events the other character should already be aware of. The pacing is all over the place. More time is spent on detailing every cave Ayla visits, but important events are sloppily skimmed over. Several “exciting” events pause to detail Zelandani social norms, the usages of cattail, or recap earlier books/scenes, thus breaking any sense of tension. Large chunks of the book are stories from the previous five books or reiterations of events that occurred earlier in the story. There is no cohesion in the book; it is separated into three parts that have very little to bind them into one work. The sex, though greatly reduced (only two explicit sex scenes and two instances of being interrupted while having sex), are still hilariously over the top and monotonous. The conclusion is mournful and an insult to fans.

About the only laudable quality is the research. It is obvious that Auel has put a lot of effort into the research, which is commendable. But regurgitating research pell-mell into a novel without good characters, a plot, and decent writing does NOT make a story. (And it doesn’t help to have anachronistic info dumps written as if from a technical manual either.)

It is inexcusable how horrible this book is. Auel has had many years to plan her ending to this once great series. In the five previous books, she introduced many interesting plotlines, which she could have explored. Instead, we are given this mammoth piece of Mammoth dung.

Ayla is basically unrecognizable. From Page One, Auel suddenly retcons Ayla’s capabilities:

Ayla, too, had extraordinarily sharp vision. She could also pick up sounds above the range of normal hearing and feel the deep tones of those that were below. Her sense of smell and taste were also keen, but she had never compared herself with anyone, and didn’t realise how extraordinary her perceptions were. She was born with heightened acuity in all her senses.

In every other book, Ayla had plausible reasons for her abilities. She was good at memorizing to compensate for the memories she didn’t have. She had greater strength to be able to keep up with the Clan. As for her vision and smell, never before has it been mentioned that Ayla’s were above-average (and given all the other Mary Sue qualities Ayla has, you can be assured this would have appeared at one point).

Ayla remains the Mary Sue she has been since the beginning. The woman can do pretty much anything and everyone will applaud her. Nearly every man wants to share Pleasures with her; the First Among Those Who Serve the Mother along with all of the Zelandania thinks she is the cat’s meow; even the women want her:

"Ayla just looked at [the Watcher] and smiled, but it was the loveliest smile [the Watcher] had ever seen. 'She really is a beautiful woman. I can understand Jondalar's attraction to her. If I were a man, I would be too.'"

The entirety of her role in this book is to gape at caves, blather about the last five books, which we’ve heard nearly 80 thousand times by now, or listen to people yammer on about counting, sacred colors, or some other such “religious” aspects (and, just to clarify, it’s not the fact it is religious that I don’t like it; it’s the fact that it is BORING). Oh, and she also is “blessed” to find the final verse in that terrible Mother’s Song, a verse that corroborates a view she has held since Book 1 and one that will send the reader’s eyes a’rollin’.


Probably the most amusing part is when Ayla suddenly becomes a vengeful person. When she discovers Jondalar has been pumping Marona with his “essence” because Ayla has been busy training to be a Zelandani, she decides to “share Pleasures” with Laramar of all people. While I appreciate having Ayla actually behave like a normal human being for once, where the hell did this come from? Why the frak did she choose Laramar of all people? Why not Brukaval or Danug or Echozar? You know, the men she thought were super attractive because of the way she was raised but hasn’t done ANYTHING to get them to show her the signal because of her TWOO LURVE for Jondalar? It’s already been established that Jondalar is a jealous pr!ck who doesn’t mind having sex with another woman but who can’t stand it when Ayla chooses another.

Jondalar, besides being said jealous pr!ck, is basically an accessory for the first two parts, and then turns into full-fledged @-hole in the last part. Other than describing his physical attributes (he is a “6'6" tall, well-formed, incredibly handsome man, with an unconscious charisma enhanced by a vividly intense shade of blue eyes”, in case you can't remember from the other 3 billion times it is mentioned), Auel keeps describing him as “charismatic”, but I honestly think that Auel doesn’t know what that word means. It certainly doesn’t describe the man I’ve been reading for five books.

He has his own out-of-character moments. He shows little signs of being upset with the decreasing amount of time that Ayla is spending with him, but suddenly, Marona is sucking on his massive dong. Where did this come from? Why Marona? Sure, she “seduced” him (because, remember, she is EVUL and cannot be shown to have a smidgeon of good), but why would Jondalar bother with her? If it’s because she’s a “petal” to be picked, why not pick the dozens of other women, who weren’t discouraged by his previous monogamy and would GLADLY drop their cave panties for him? What about Joplaya or Zolena/Zelandani/First? Oh, right, that would actually make sense, and we can’t have logic in these books!

What really irritates me is that when he is caught, he whines, “Why did Ayla have to find out?” Uh, don’t you mean, WHY THE FRAK DID I SEX UP MARONA, THE WOMAN I RAN OUT ON BECAUSE I DIDN’T WANT TO MARRY HER, AND CHEAT ON THE WOMAN I SUPPOSEDLY LURVE SO MUCH?!!?? You dirty, filthy, scumbag, you are just guilty because Ayla found out, not because you did something wrong, betrayed her trust, and acted like a two-faced d-bag, just like how you behaved 6 years ago in The Mammoth Hunters. You truly haven't grown up, have you, Jondalar?

And why is it that AYLA should be shamed for Jondalar sleeping around with another woman? It’s a WOMAN’S fault if a man sleeps with another woman, because she didn’t Pleasure her mate enough? Has no one heard of control? What about self-Pleasure? How about good old fashioned “talking”? Wasn’t that what they promised to do after the LAST Big Misunderstanding in Hunters? Why the frak are they even so exclusive to begin with? This is supposedly a polyamorous society! There is no reason that either of them should have their cave panties in such a knot.

But what about Jonayla, the child that Ayla wanted so past the last five books? I would hardly have noticed she was even here; every time she could, Ayla dumped Jonayla on someone else so Ayla could do something more interesting. I can’t tell you one remarkable thing about the child…no, wait, I take that back. Jonayla is probably the only baby (only a few months old) that can wait to urinate until her mother removes her from her carrying basket.

I hate to keep saying it, because I sound like a broken record, but every other character is a cardboard cutout. No one has any personality, no identifying attribute to make them stand out of the rest of this crowd. All the good guys love Ayla and Jondalar. All the “bad guys” are so lame and impotent, they might as well have been written for 5 year olds. No, that’s insulting to 5 year olds.

There really is no plot to this book. The first two parts are so boring, I thought I would poke my eye out with a blunt instrument, just to have something exciting to do. Watching paint dry is more exciting than listening/reading to this book. And it's not like the first two parts have any real importance to the last part. In fact, the first two parts are so insignificant to the last part, you could just skip them and move directly to part three. I'll do you a favor: here's the summary:

Part One: Ayla begins to train as Zelandani. EARTHQUAKE!


In the first part, we ALMOST get a plot. Zelandani is frustrated that Ayla doesn’t spend more time training; everyone is p!ssed that Ayla dumps Jonayla on them (some mother that Ayla has become!) and Jondalar is somewhat pouty that Ayla isn’t always available to suck on him. Welcome to marriage, Jondalar. After an earthquake that goes NOWHERE, this part abruptly stops and lurches into part two.

Part Two is suddenly set four years later for no good reason. Ayla heads off to look at the caves, dragging along Jondalar and Jonayla, again for no good reason. Ayla and gang go to the caves for no good reason (in case you can't tell, a lot happens in this book for no good reason). Auel does absolutely NOTHING to make the caves integral to the story. I thought she might make Ayla draw one of the cave paintings (yeah, Mary Sue-ish and probably not accurate to the time period, but I’m so over that by now), but no, that would be too interesting. Instead, Ayla just gawks at these scratches on the wall, as if she was on a modern day tour (imagine reading a book about a guy playing Tetris), and chat it up with fellow Zelandania about why the “ancients” drew on the walls as if they are art history students (but exceptionally BORING art history students—my sibling has taken art history courses and talked about some art, and it was NOWHERE NEAR as BORING as these discussions, and I don't really get art!!). But wait, do they have interesting conclusions to why the artists drew on the walls? *laughs* It pretty much amounts to: don’t have a clue, but they had a reason! This entire section is POINTLESS and, more importantly, BORING.

Just when things might get interesting, Auel hastily wraps up the journey in two paragraphs and stumbles into Part Three. Part Three is where Ayla trips upon Marona giving Jondalar “a good time” (apparently Ayla did NOT invent oral pleasures!!), and the two decide that not talking worked SO WELL back in Hunters, they ought to do it again. Which they do until Ayla nearly dies from that root drug from Cave Bear, blah, blah, blah...

Oh, yeah, before that happens, Ayla takes that damn drug (yes, she takes the drug TWICE in this book), wanders into a cave, and starts hallucinating. As she does, she is “gifted” with the Big Reveal, hears the complete version of that horrible Mother’s Song, miscarries a child in a senseless, tacky act of “drama”, and then tells everyone about her BIG NEWS. What is that Big Reveal, you ask?

With the way the Three Parts are written, it’s as if Auel wrote two separate stories, couldn’t decide which one to use, and decided she didn’t want to bother writing anymore, so she tossed them together with a travelogue she had of the prehistoric cave paintings. What happens in Parts 1 and 2 aren’t referenced in Part 3; in fact Parts 1 and 2 seem to be an excuse to research the caves and nothing more.

The repetition in this book! All of the books are bad, but this one is painfully repetitious! Don’t bother reading any of the previous books; you won’t need to. In fact, even without reading the previous books, you’ll probably want to shoot yourself in the head by the end with the amount of times you hear people gape at Ayla’s Super Speshul Accent (over 30 separate incidents!), someone introduce themselves with either full or partial introductions, a retelling of an event in previous books, or astonishment over the domesticated animals. And in case you wondered how cavepeople took care of body functions, Auel makes sure her characters let you know as her characters take a whopping 23 times to either “pass water” or talk about bodily functions.

The writing! It’s almost as if Auel is getting worse. There were many instances, but here is one sentence that stood out to me as particularly horrible:

“It’s uncanny, but mysterious.”

Uncanny: a: seeming to have a supernatural character or origin: eerie, mysterious; b: being beyond what is normal or expected: suggesting superhuman or supernatural powers

Mysterious: a: of, relating to, or constituting mystery; b: exciting wonder, curiosity, or surprise while baffling efforts to comprehend or identify: mystifying

“It’s mysterious, but mysterious?” Huh? What is this supposed to MEAN?

The research! It is so awkward and analytical; you’d probably get more enjoyment out of reading a non-fiction book than this. Actually, the entire Part Two feels like a non-fiction wrok. There is no sense of awe or excitement to see these cave drawings; in fact, I’ve never before been so bored and uninspired to see them.

Earlier this year, I got the chance to read an extraordinary novel. The setting was rich and detailed. The characters were warm and inviting. The story was gripping and made me want to read more. I tore through it quickly, and when I got to the end, I immediately felt bereft.

What amazing, unputdownable book am I talking about? That was none other than Clan of the Cave Bear. I truly fell in love with that book, with Creb, Iza, and Ayla, with a wide, wonderful new world set in the prehistoric age. I had heard so many things about the books (particularly the latter ones), but I had such hope for the series. I was really eager to learn about what happened to Ayla. Would she ever see her son again? Would she ever find her family? How could she survive by herself? Would Ayla ever find love, family, belonging or would she constantly wander alone?

Well, this book answered absolutely NONE of my questions. It took the characters I loved and twisted them beyond recognition. It is an execrable excuse for a novel. But what’s worse is that this is the final book of the series (unless Auel changes her mind and decides to milk the cash cow a bit more). And that means there are no more books. There is no hope of learning what happens to Durc, to Uba, to the Clan. I won’t see Ranec, and Nezzie, and Deejee again. My last memory of these people is destined to be Jondalar screaming (Reb Brown-style) “He’s making my baby!”

And that is what makes me honestly sad.

NOT recommended.
Profile Image for Lady.
2 reviews
April 26, 2011
I won't go too much into detail as other reviewers have exhaustively explained why this book sucks donkey arse, but essentially:

1. Auel likes to repeat things. A lot. What I meant to say is that Auel likes to repeat things. A lot.

2. Auel really digs caves. No, really. Ayla spends 2/3 of the book shuffling through caves, peeing in caves, knocking the ash off her torch in caves, and scrutinizing all of the art in caves. What a cavewoman. (snicker)

3. Ayla and Jondalar's interactions consist of, "Why don't you take Jonayla for a while, Jondalar? I need to go and do something esoteric with Zelandoni that involves lots of celibacy."

4. Jondalar: "Okay."

5. Jondalar thinks about this for a while, and says to himself, "Not okay." It turns out he has spent most of the book bonking the shit out of Marona, though in secret, except since it is a small cave in which they live (god, we can't get away from the fucking caves here, can we?), everyone knows about their incessant bonking except for, naturally, Ayla.

6. Ayla finds out about Jondalar's quasi-infidelity (we have to remember that although up to this point, Jondalar & Ayla have been monogamous, they nonetheless live in a polyamorous society) a week after having miscarried her baby while being called to the Zelandonia via - you guessed it - herbs. She discovers this infidelity by watching Marona slurp on Jondalar's...

7. Well, at least this book went easy on the porn.

8. Jondalar and Ayla act like lovelorn middle schoolers. "She hates me!" "He hates me!" Jonayla cries a lot.

9. As though Auel realised toward the end what a stinking pile of shit this book is, she decided to revive it by making Ayla carry out what consists of an intentional suicide attempt by trying out the Clan roots used by the Clan Mog-urs - and drinking nearly the entire contents of the bowl, after letting Zelandoni have the tiniest of sips. Ayla nearly dies, and is called back to life by a contrite and suddenly passionately loving Jondalar.

10. Ayla reveals to this cave-dwelling society that it isn't spirits that make babies, it's sex. Good, old-fashioned sex. Which is ironic, since we don't see a lot of sex in this book.

11. The Goddess society is now on the decline, thanks to Ayla and her goddamned interfering.

12. This book contradicts a lot of what is said in earlier books, especially in Shelters of Stone - in that book, Ayla asks Jondalar what datura is called in Zelandoni, and he answers, "Foxglove." In this book, Ayla has absolutely no idea what the plant is called in Zelandoni, and has to describe it to Zelandoni, who has never seen the plant, which leads one to wonder how the hell a Zelandoni word for it ever existed in the first place.

13. There is no character development. Ever. At all.

Important Note: You will cry once you've shlogged through your fortieth cave, complete with exhaustive descriptions of the cave's art and its physical structure, and you find that you still have forty more caves for Ayla to explore.

Oh, and I have to warn you that you might just laugh until you cry when Jondalar beats the shit out of Laramar, who is bonking Ayla at a Mother Festival, while screaming in a high-pitched falsetto, "He's making my baby!" You see, Ayla has just announced prior to the Mother Festival (great timing, naturally, since I'm sure all the guys will be wanting their women to conceive by other dudes) that men's "essence" creates babies. So perhaps this pile of shit was worth digging through just so we could hear Jondalar screaming, "He's making my baby!"

All in all, drivel. Complete drivel. It's as though Auel looked at her body of work thus far, realised she still had to write one last book, said "DAMN!" to herself, and told the characters, "Frankly, my cavepeople, I don't give a damn" and proceeded to write plastic people who could have substituted for one another without any of our noticing.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Teri Pre.
1,666 reviews30 followers
June 12, 2012
I just read the interview with Jane Auel that came out before the book was published. It was a LOT more interesting than the book was!

While reading LOPC, I kept finding myself saying "AGAIN???" Wolf helps to find Jondular AGAIN??? You're repeating the "Mother's Song" AGAIN????? You're talking about cattails AGAIN??? Someone is jealous...AGAIN???

It seemed to me that Jondular and Ayla still hadn't gotten past the problems that they had in MH. They haven't grown as characters at all! It would have been far more interesting if there would have been a few scenes with Marona (sorry if I spelled it wrong) and WHY and HOW he decided to "relieve his needs" with her. I also didn't quite understand why Marona packed her things and left!!! She had (at least a part of) Jondular...he and Ayla weren't talking...why give up the high ground??

And it would have been awesome if he and Ayla would have actually TALKED about it instead of just hiding from each other AGAIN!!!

I LOVED Clan of the Cave Bears. It had a good "vibe"...a clash of cultures...a variant of "nature vs nurture". Valley of Horses was AWESOME! Coming to terms with "known prejudices". Mammoth Hunters was GREAT! A look at a society that values differences. Wasn't so crazy about Plains of Passage...but it was interesting seeing the way different cultures handle things.

I even liked Shelters of Stone as it defined relationships in a community and the effect of an "outsider" on the dynamics of said community.

Land of Painted Caves was just....nothing! There was nothing new...except for the red and black dots!! No relationship went forward or back...no one learned anything...no one had any insights....I could go on...but I won't.
Profile Image for Henry Avila.
469 reviews3,255 followers
April 29, 2020
After three years, six books and 4,345 pages I have finished reading the Earth's Children, saga by Finnish American author Jean Auel (nee Untinen) and my first reaction is... I will miss the fabulous, persistent Ayla, her strange though quite lovable family, both human and some not so much, the beautiful loyal people there too , always impressive, and the exotic creatures ... yes... the..Wolf, ...Whinney, Racer, Gray..
horse animals.... her new mate's tribe the Zelandonii, especially the unique atmosphere of the prehistoric lands 30,000 B. C., where the few beings in existence survive against all odds otherwise nobody today would be breathing. It is with a little regret Auel's last novel is the weakest in the series, she seems to have run out of interesting ideas, except for the constant squabbles between Ayla and Jondalar, mostly just trivial misunderstanding which a couple of words could settle the problems but they lack courage to speak to the other. The writer's continuous retelling of past events gets tiresome, I don't mind some but she can't help herself...as if any new readers can never get the gist of the books only by this way understand, otherwise they'd be lost, but do we really need to repeat over and over the same bygones?....The duo are trying to nest with their menagerie, a killer wolf, three wild horses, and an inquisitive daughter of six Jonayla , the naive Ayla, and her very jealous mate Jondalar. While the foreigner is studying to be a medicine woman for the Zelandonii tribe, neglecting her handsome man, with lusting women all around looking favorably at him not wise, still the main emphasis of the plot are the cave paintings which Ayla visits, a requirement to become a full -fledged healer and leader, wonderful drawings which have endured for tens of thousands of years. If you like creepy caves, not the nervous type, want to find out what's around the corner, shadows don't frighten, weird noises are heavenly, exploring them deep underground in real tight spaces, darkness saturating the tunnels with just a torch to light the path, in cold, chilly temperatures looking at the walls decorated with painted extinct animals, the magnificent mammoths, from a long vanished era hoping to find your way back to the entrance ...this might be nirvana, for the rest not a thrill, ( obviously the author loves ancient cave paintings ) you have stamina and a... wonderful adventure ... in a sacred terrain, I liked it. A marvelous experience for anyone with a curious streak this may be fiction and we probably can never know how humans back then lived yet this is as good a guess as we're likely to discover..Not perfect but it will suffice.
Profile Image for Iset.
665 reviews491 followers
August 19, 2014

The Clan of the Cave Bear was a masterful character driven drama, if slightly plodding, an intensive study of both the nature of characters and relationships. The protagonist, Ayla, was a flawed and vulnerable girl possessed of genuinely admirable determination, existing in a very dangerous, brutal and unfair world which caused her to suffer real hardships and even be threatened with death on more than one occasion. The Land of Painted Caves is a poorly written, repetitive, tedious, unenjoyable mess. The pace of the book moves at a bare crawl, the plot doesn’t even show up until the last third of the novel and even then it’s a half-baked, implausible affair that’s essentially just a rehash of the plot of the third book. The protagonists are overpowered and boring, but even worse, in an attempt to inject some drama into this story, they act inconsistently and out-of-character with their previous incarnations, whilst a veritable tide of thinly-sketched secondary characters are introduced and never heard from again. How could the debut novel of the Earth’s Children series have been so good, whilst its finale is so bad? The Land of Painted Caves was touted by publicity campaigns as "the bestseller of 2011". Instead the negative reaction from fans this time round has been overwhelming, and the word I have seen being thrown out there most often is "disappointing".

Disappointing is the word that comes foremost to my own mind in regards to this final instalment in the Earth’s Children saga, but to be honest I can’t pretend that, after having observed the decline of the series and problems inherent in The Shelters of Stone, I actually expected The Land of Painted Caves to be on a par with The Clan of the Cave Bear. I went into Painted Caves with the strong suspicion of what I would be getting myself into, and the book didn’t prove me wrong in that regards. What I found so disappointing about it was that beyond the mess that this book was, it had the potential to be so much better. Previous books had established a few potential conflicts and hinted at a few intriguing little strands that if these conflicts had been handled better and given any element of risk, or these loose strands picked up on and pursued, Painted Caves could have been a whole lot better. There was potential for a good story somewhere in there, it was simply wasted and the easy option taken instead. Even, with a more severe editor eliminating all the repetition and unnecessary chaff from this book, something could have been produced that would have been half as long and at least concise and acceptable enough to pass muster.

Repetition is a major problem in The Land of Painted Caves. Certain themes or sentences are repeated over and over again, characters would pause right in the middle of a scene to embark upon a lengthy reminisce about an event from one of the previous books, characters would even speak to one another about such prior incidents as if the other person hadn’t been there at the time and didn’t know what had happened. The repetition was so interminable that towards the last third of the novel incidents that had happened earlier in the book were revisited and readers reminded of them. This was probably the single most annoying thing, to me, in this book, the one thing that really got my rubbing my temples and having to simply stop reading because I could only take so much. For fun, and to pass the time a little, whilst I was reading the book I kept an accurate tally of the number of times certain things were repeated.

Number of times Wolf is "introduced" to someone: 4

Number of times Ayla’s baby waits to pass her water on the ground instead of in her blanket: 4

Number of times Ayla’s titles and ties are recited: 12

Number of times the Mother’s Song is either wholly or partially recited: 13

Number of times Ayla’s accent is mentioned: 32

Second to the repetition is the sheer dryness of the descriptions. In The Land of Painted Caves the sheer page space devoted to description alone overwhelms all other aspects – plot, action, characterisations – and as a result those elements really suffer from being sparsely drawn and not nearly developed enough. Had these descriptions been written with skill, vigour, or imagination, it might not have been too bad, but unfortunately the vast majority of descriptions in Painted Caves are dry, dull and technical. This has a knock on effect and drags the pacing down incessantly, turning the book into a tedious, laboured drudge that takes real effort to get through, or even pick up. Most of the description is centred around the eponymous painted caves of the novel’s title, and the heart of the book is simply the main characters visiting cave after cave after cave. The first whiff of a real plot doesn’t even show up until three-quarters of the way into the book, and by that time, clichéd and awful as this last minute contrivance is, you’re desperate for something, anything, to happen in this breeze block of a tome. Auel mentions in the Acknowledgements that she’s particularly grateful for a certain book which told her the exact positioning and placement of every image in the painted caves that Ayla’s visits in this book, and whilst I’d probably say that’s fair enough and it’s a good idea for the author to be sure of such information just in case the need crops up, it is totally unnecessary for her to pass on such level of detail to the readers. Now, as an historian I’m not saying that these details are unimportant – far from it – but if I wanted a coldly factual site report I’d read an academic publication about it – I am not looking for this level of dry detail in a fictional novel which I am reading for personal entertainment. Auel’s done her research, kudos there, I do prefer my historical fiction to be accurate rather than inaccurate, but surely the point is that she wants these historic sites to capture the imagination of her readers the way it’s captured her imagination. If that was the effect she wanted, she should have focused on creating the right impression, conveying how exciting and interesting these cave paintings are, even if that meant using broader brush strokes in her descriptions of them and omitting a few unnecessary details here and there – it shouldn’t be as important for us to know exactly how high up on the cave wall the painting is or whether it’s facing left or right, what we should walk away with is an interest and a general idea. Instead Auel seems to have shoved every last one of her research notes in here, tacked on a lame plot at the end, had it published and called it a fictional novel. Here’s an example of the kind of scintillating stuff I had to read through:

Page 326: "The cave was high above the river valley floor, and reasonably dry inside, but it was calcareous rock, which was naturally porous, and water saturated with calcium carbonate constantly seeped through it."

Painted Caves might still have been salvageable had it had a decent plot, but it doesn’t. There’s very little plot to speak of in the first three-quarters of the book, Ayla and Jondalar go to a Summer Meeting, visit a lot of caves, meet a few people and that’s pretty much it. The timeframe jumps ahead by four years at one point, totally without warning and apparently totally without reason too. When the actual plot does show up it’s so awkward and artificial that it just falls flat. The first strand of the plot, the big revelation, falls flat because it’s not actually a big revelation at all, but something that Ayla has known pretty much since the first book. Just having the zelandonia’s thoughts, and the public discussion group about the new revelation was enough to really imply what Auel wanted to imply, we didn’t really need to then be hammered over the head with it by Ayla’s dream of the future, that was just written with too much modern hindsight and it was way too obvious.

The second strand of the plot is

If Auel’s objective was to try and show Ayla and Jondalar with some human flaws though, it was pretty pointless, because although they do make big out-of-character mistakes on this one point, the rest of the time they’re back to being the flawlessly perfect power-couple we all know, with about as much humanity and feeling for one another as machines. Heck, even as a baby their daughter has full functioning control over her bowels and bladder and conveniently waits until she’s out of her blankets to go to the toilet. These aren’t real, breathing human beings who bleed when cut, cry, sweat and get dirty. Auel is even contradicting her own canon now to further empower her pet character:

Page 1: "Ayla, too, had extraordinarily sharp vision. She could also pick up sounds above the range of normal hearing and feel the deep tones of those that were below. Her sense of smell and taste were also keen, but she had never compared herself with anyone, and didn’t realise how extraordinary her perceptions were. She was born with heightened acuity in all her senses..."

As long-term readers will know, Ayla has an exceptionally good memory, but that particular talent is given a firm grounding, we buy into it because the whole of the first book plausibly establishes this. However this is the first I’ve ever heard of Ayla having had heightened senses from birth – when was this mentioned in any of the previous novels? This is a complete dart from the blue. Ayla’s character is just getting silly now, she’s way too overpowered. Is there anything she can’t do? Yep – sing. I know that because her inability to sing was mentioned repeatedly throughout the novel, but let’s face it, that’s not a real character flaw. Ayla is such a Mary Sue by this stage that we’re frequently treated to passages like these:

Page 428: "Ayla just looked at her and smiled, but it was the loveliest smile she had ever seen. She really is a beautiful woman, the Watcher thought. I can understand Jondalar’s attraction to her. If I were a man, I would be too."

Page 644: "Stories were already beginning, stories that would be told around hearth fires and campfires for years, about Jondalar’s love, so great it brought his Ayla back from the dead."

Talk about cheesy and clichéd. Perhaps even worse, the few things that continued to make Ayla likable are completely missing in Painted Caves. Her fierce devotion as a healer to those in need is utterly absent – on more than one occasion she’d rather ride off to the next cave than look after someone she’s treated, . She hunts animals for no good reason and brings down far more than she needs to, ironically practising the kind of overpredation over-exploitation message that Auel is trying to preach against. As for other characters, they might as well just not be there at all. Everyone else is barely more than a name, even her own daughter Jonayla shows no hint of personality at all and Ayla seems to show very little interest in her, surprising given what a ferocious mother she was in The Clan of the Cave Bear.

Despite having had nine years to work on this since the release of The Shelters of Stone, the finale which Auel has delivered feels rushed to press and unready for publication. I found typos and strange grammatical errors throughout but they got more frequent and worse towards the end of the book, really giving the impression that the actual plot really was just hastily tacked onto the end. The invented names were fairly unimaginative, all in all, and in the middle of a sentence sometimes the time setting would shift, the tense of the text would change, or a change from third person to first person would occur with not so much as an italicisation to indicate it. This feels sloppy and hurried. Another niggle – frequently Auel broke off from the main story to deliver a totally anachronistic comment about something that occurred long before or after the book’s setting, for example as in the following:

Page 351: "In later times, some would refer to the ozone in the atmosphere before rain as fresh air; others who had the ability to detect it thought it had a metallic tinge."

Page 380: "Some four hundred thousand years before, the force of a subterranean stream carved through the limestone, eventually wearing the calcium carbonate rock away, creating caves and passageways."

This drove me mad. It completely ruined the atmosphere of the Upper Palaeolithic world that Auel was trying to craft and forcefully jarred me out of my immersion in the story.

This brings me back into a neat circle to my initial point. The Land of Painted Caves got it wrong on so many levels, but it could have been so much better. An editor could have tightened up the errors and the repetition, and whilst the description here was unbelievably dry there were glimmers of the kind of vivid, vibrant descriptions that Auel used to write:

Page 64: "The world during the Ice Age with its glittering glaciers, transparently clear rivers, thundering waterfalls, and hordes of animals in vast grasslands was dramatically beautiful, but brutally harsh, and the few people who lived then recognised at a fundamental level the necessity of keeping strong affiliations."

Page 135: "The moon was new, and without its glowing light to moderate their brilliance, the stars filled the night sky with an awe-inspiring profusion."

Page 218: "Ayla watched the fire sending flickering sparks up into the night as though trying to reach their twinkling brethren far up in the sky above. It was dark; the moon was young and had already set. No clouds obscured the dazzling display of stars that were so thick, they seemed to be strung together on skeins of light."

There were also so many missed opportunities that could have made for a great plot in this book. With a decent plot, and the feisty, strong Ayla from The Clan of the Cave Bear, the later books in the Earth’s Children series, and particularly The Land of Painted Caves, could have been as gripping a read as the first instalment was. The potential for a good story was definitely there – it all could have turned out so differently! And that’s why The Land of Painted Caves was such a disappointment to me.

0 out of 10
Profile Image for Astraea.
41 reviews17 followers
May 25, 2015
I can save you the trouble of attempting to plough through Ms Auel's Potteresque doorstop in a few easy sentences.

I detest the term "Mary Sue" flung about lightly to describe any gifted, beautiful or assertive female character, but Auel's descriptions of Ayla fit the bill to a faretheewell. I wouldn't even mind this so much if she had actually bothered to tell a story and finish the story she started with.

A. Temple
Profile Image for Vanessa.
93 reviews5 followers
March 21, 2011
All right, that's finally done. Nothing like making a stomach bug feel worse by reading a very disappointing book.

First off, I will say that I do admire Ms. Auel for a couple of things: 1) She researched this like no one else. The depth and breadth of her experiences while writing all this are absolutely commendable. Above and beyond. Very few people get interested in something and go that far into learning about it. And 2) She has always said (in the few interviews I can find) that she wrote this whole thing for herself. Few writers can say that and mean it and I hope she is satisfied with what she produced. Ultimately, all writers know that that is what really matters. I'd like to thank her for introducing me to this fascinating world.

That said, here I go. Spoilers very much follow.

The first 2 parts of this book are just an agonizing repeated ad nauseum rehashing of incidents from the first 4 books (nothing of note happened in the 5th, really), and Ms. Auel's own field journal of tours of painted caves. Nothing happens. The end. Didn't even make me want to see the caves, and I've ALWAYS wanted to see those caves. Now if I do see them, I will just be thinking of the fat chick peeing in the corner and Wolf taking a crap on the path. (Note to aspiring writers: Telling about people and animals' bodily functions is not a detail needed for realism. Just not.)

The third part was where the published story should have started. A few halfway exciting plot points happen, or start to happen and then....just don't fulfill. Even Ayla's drug-induced "calling" was disappointing. And while it might be realistic and refreshing to show that Neolithic (Paleolithic? My college Anthropology escapes me right now) people were not benign "noble savages" with strict cultural morays against violence by showing them beating a group of criminals to a bloody pulp, I don't think that was necessary.
It made me sad that this book ended on such a negative note; that instead of Ayla contributing somehow to the future of mankind (as had been teased throughout the saga), she was the singular cause of its eventual "downfall"into a patriarchal system. All because she realized that the penis has a biological function for procreation. I expected more from Ayla.

And let's talk about that for a moment, shall we? I have never, ever seen an author turn on their protagonist in such a blatant and hostile way. The narrative of this book, the underlying tone, makes it very clear that Ms. Auel was sick to death of this story. That by the end of it, she hates this wonderful character she created and wants nothing more to do with her and lost the will to help Ayla become what we all thought she would. Ayla is flat and unsympathetic and simple. Even when Jondalar cheats on her with that malicious slut, I just rolled my eyes at the rehashing of the plot of MH that followed.

I know she struggled with a huge bout of writer's block. That happens to every writer (me included. I shall not throw stones into her little glass house). I wish Ms. Auel could have come through it with a little more grace and dignity, with some recognition that she was not alone in this endeavor, that there are millions of us out here who needed this story to be...more. Is that too maudlin? Did I hold her pedestal up a bit high? Maybe. But you can't start a meal with filet mignon and end it with green jello.

I've never been a fan of fan fiction. But I think I might take a stab at this one. Someone needs to fix this book. And, following Jean Auel's own
credo, I shall write it for myself.

And now back to reading ChickLit crap that I love.

Profile Image for Amanda.
162 reviews19 followers
July 2, 2011
Herewith, the "Land of the Painted Caves" drinking game!


the text mentions Ayla's accent, DRINK!
the text called Ayla beautiful or Jondolar handsome, DRINK!
the word "vivid" is used to describe Jondolar or Jonayla's eyes, DRINK!
there is a verse of that goddess-forsaken song, DRINK!
there's a description of how much some other person adores Ayla, DRINK!
the word "uncanny" is used to describe Ayla's special abilities, DRINK!
Ayla remembers her vision quest with Creb, DRAIN YOUR GLASS!

You'll be so soused by the third chapter that it may not hurt to keep reading.

This was, hands down, the worst book I've ever finished. And I've read books written by fifth graders.

I don't actually know why I finished -- it's really that awful. Maybe it was because the first three books were so key to my teenage years and I felt a sense of loyalty to the series. I know I read the fourth and fifth books but I don't remember them. But they could not have been this bad.

I won't bother describing why it's bad -- there's only 18,955 characters left and you don't care that much because you're not going to read it.

Also, Jondalar is a whiny emo putz and I knew that even when I was 13.

Profile Image for Jeanette (Ms. Feisty).
2,179 reviews1,946 followers
April 18, 2011
Big thanks to all the Good Reads and Amazon reviewers who have already given this one a big THUMBS DOWN. You've given me permission to stop wasting my time hoping it will get better.

I'm always afraid of being the one to burst everyone's expectation bubble without putting in a fair effort. No problem with that here. As of this writing, there are 398 ratings on Good Reads, and the average rating for all editions is 2.80! As I scroll through the first dozen reviews, ALL of them are one or two star ratings. This has to be the biggest bomb I've ever seen for a long-anticipated book by a popular author.

I don't know what happened to Jean Auel's writing skills in the hiatus, but this book is purely awful! The dialogue is worse than the worst chick lit I've ever read, and the story is confusing and just plain BORING. I know the lady did a lot of research, but where were her editors? She didn't have to make this an epic. If she wanted to share what she'd learned about the painted caves she could have done that in a much shorter book. Bummer, dude. Back to the library it goes for the next eager person in line.
Profile Image for Megan.
278 reviews4 followers
July 27, 2011
I loved these books as a kid. It's been a looong time since I read one, though. Now I'm 40% of the way through this one, complete with Part One. If you've read her previous books, you could probably skip part one and just go straight to Part Two.... unless you wanted to read and reread and reread all the major points of the previous books just for fun.

Key points you will enjoy being beaten over the head with:

1. Ayla has an accent! Everyone notices. Sometimes more than once.
2. Wolves, they are social creatures! They like children! Because they're social creatures!
3. There are caves. They have paintings in them. Please enjoy this tour of every single cave and every single painting in every single cave. Hey, I know, let's discuss them in our strange accent! With a wolf!

I couldn't finish it.
Profile Image for Karen.
810 reviews1,026 followers
October 3, 2019

FINALLY!!! I finished the series. And I have to say THANK-FUCKING-GOD! This last book has been TORTURE! If you are considering this series, I would seriously consider skipping this book. It is soooooo repetitive that I nearly went insane. I would have rated it lower even, but I invested SO MUCH TIME, I couldn't bear to think I wasted this much time on a shitty book.

There were some actual advances in the storyline, but they could have been told in about 50 pages. The rest of the book was just an on-going loop of repetitive bull shit. And I'm not trying to be overly critical. I'm just being truthful. And that Mother's Song might have actually been a clever piece of prose, had she not beat me to a pulp with it... over and over and over again. I would have just skipped right over it, had I been reading the actual text. But with an audiobook, I was stuck listening over and over again, poking sharp objects in my eyes just to pass the time for it to end.

Sandra Burr, the narrator did a fabulous job with the whole series. Her voices were wonderful. I just hope she didn't end up needing therapy after narrating this last book.

Overall, I enjoyed the series. It was very creative and comprehensively interesting. My only complaint was that is could have been about 3000 pages shorter. The first book was by far the best.
Profile Image for Rachel.
92 reviews47 followers
April 4, 2011
I, unfortunately and with great sadness, have to give this book 1 star. I would probably give it half a star if I could.

The first 2/3 of the book were a total waste of my time. For crying out freaking loud, how many freaking times do we have to have the Mother's Song repeated? Congratulations Jean Auel. You can rhyme stuff. And clearly you are very proud of it. The rest of us DON'T CARE. Give the damn thing once, at the beginning of the book, before the first chapter even. If we need to refer back to it (which we won't because we don't care), we know where to find it. It took her nine years to essentially plagiarize not only her previous books, but also previous parts of the current book. How many times do you have to repeat something? Answer: You don't, because your readers are not stupid and we can remember what we read 2 paragraphs ago. We can even remember what we read 2 chapters ago. OR 5 BOOKS AGO.

No one has ever needed an editor as badly as Auel, and whoever her editor was failed miserably to reign her in and create a quality product that I actually care to read. Frankly, if her editor had read this book and gone through with a very heavy hand on the red pen, Auel probably would have spent nine years writing 25 pages of worthwhile material. And you know what? A compilation of Ayla short stories throughout the years would have been much more satisfying than the enormous piece of crap she produced.

After trudging through the first 2/3 of the book, you get to the last 1/3 of the book where there is actual new material. I have never seen an author who was so incredibly untrue to her characters. Almost every part of this story was not in keeping with the personal progression of Ayla and Jondalar, whom we have grown to both love and admire through her previous books. She could have named this book "The Mammoth Hunters Revisted: But Only the Crappy Parts".

I want my money back. Not to mention 5 days of my life wasted on this cheap trash.
Profile Image for DeAnna.
1,021 reviews23 followers
April 9, 2011
I know, I know...this series went crashingly downhill after Clan of the Cave Bear, but I still want to find out how the saga ends.

And...now I'm done. Bleah. Talk about going out with a whimper. Even though it got to be a little ridiculous about how Ayla invented everything from needles to helicopters (heh), it was at least interesting to me to read how those things *might* have been created. This book didn't have any of that. Lots of long descriptions of caves, like Auel couldn't bear to leave a single one out. Flat characters acting out of character. No sense of personality for Ayla's daughter. Depressing ending. I hated it.
Profile Image for Mindy.
16 reviews3 followers
April 11, 2011
After waiting so long to read the "final" episode in Ayla's story, I can only say: disappointing.

You can read the other reviews to find discussions of the repetition (from previous books, from section to section within the same book, of cave painting descriptions, etc.), and in my opinion, the use of repetition was worse than usual for this author; however, what struck me was that it felt as though each section was written entirely separately as the tone was completely different for each. This would explain a lot of the repetition and why it was so particularly bad this time round. The first two sections were fairly uninteresting. There were a few little gems here and there, but for the most part, could have been easily summarized. The last section, where there is a lot more detail about Ayla's training and the action really picks up (although in a way that was repetitive from previous works in the series), was the most interesting and enjoyable. SPOILER: It livened up a great deal when her Mamutoi friends showed up, which, in my opinion, could have happened a great deal sooner to very good effect.

Perhaps the most disappointing part was that throughout the book, the characters felt one-dimensional, even the two that we readers have spent the most time with: Ayla and Jondalar. There was far less internal dialogue than previously and when it was present, it still felt flat. The "flavor" of their thoughts was missing; sometimes I had difficulty deciding who was doing the talking. On top of that, despite time, motherhood, and achieving her "destiny" as a spiritual leader, her relationship with the most important person in her life (Jondalar) changed not one iota.

I would have liked to see a lot more from the First about the internal struggles of one who holds the spiritual well being of thousands in her hands. She *never* had doubts? What about the time and energy all of this took, on top of which she was now training the one she believed would follow in her footsteps? Would this not be an exacting and exhausting task? Would there not be some one-on-one instruction? It appeared that all of Ayla's training took place in a group. This would have been the place to add all new material.

To revisit the repetition issue once again: if I had to read the Mother's Song one more time, I was going to start ripping pages out! As a matter of fact, I just started skimming those parts. It seemed pointless and was no longer special.

I was saddened by the appearance of poor copy editing in this work. While the typos from the ARC (complained about by other reviewers) appear to have been fixed, there were other problems, such as dropped plot lines (there was a particular ne'er do well family mentioned in the first section, not at all in the second, and suddenly picked up again in the third) and a great deal of internal repetition. While there was a great deal of recycling of material from previous books (already mentioned here and other reviews), descriptions of caves and travel mind-numbingly similar, she often re-mentioned actions that had occurred in previous sections/chapters, almost as if she had forgotten she had already put it in.

I think that perhaps one of my biggest disappointments was that there wasn't an epilogue of some sort showing that Ayla had truly turned into an enigmatic zelandoni, giving up her name, becoming First, perhaps in extreme age looking back on her life and what happened to her mate and children (yes, she had one child in the book but wanted more). It honestly felt like that the author left it open enough to continue the story in some way, assertions on the dust jacket aside ("the last in the series", it said).

When all is said and done, even if I had read the reviews before purchasing this book, I would still have purchased and read it. In my opinion, however, I would much rather have preferred that the series end with the fifth book when I could imagine what happened. SPOILER: The ending of this one was a real let down (the Gift of Knowledge and people *already* starting to fight over paternity.....blech). Overall, it felt like Jean Auel was *really* tired of this project and just wanted to be done with it.

After thinking about it a bit, I just want to point out that the author is 75 years old! I certainly hope that I would be able to put out a tome of this size at that age.
Profile Image for Lisa Vegan.
2,802 reviews1,234 followers
March 14, 2019
I heard horrible things about this book, unfortunately, because I was so looking forward to it, and even though my expectations had a damper put on them, I was eager to complete the story. (I actually won a copy of this book from Goodreads’ First Reads program but did not shelve this on my first-reads shelf because I won an unreadable pre-publication edition that arrived a few weeks after the book had been published; I waited and read a hardcover edition borrowed from my public library.)

Very disappointing and anticlimactic!! I also found it discombobulating to continually get taken between the historical fiction story and being educated about the little ice age, which is when this story takes place.

Yes, despite its flaws, this was a 3 star book for me, until the end/toward the end, which left me so unsatisfied. It’s not that it deserved 3 stars, and maybe it doesn’t deserve even 2 stars, but I’m rating on my enjoyment while reading, not on the book’s merits.

It’s been nearly a decade since the last book; I would have happily waited years more for a better conclusion to this epic story. It’s been 25 years since I read the first book, the best of the 6, and book 2 was unique and fascinating, and I do love being with these people in these setting, and enjoy the conjectures about what life was like in this era.

Because so much time has elapsed since I’ve read the previous 5 books, I was grateful for reminders of what had happened in those books, but this book is so ridiculously repetitive. This book needed major editing. The author should not have thanked her editor in the acknowledgements; I can’t imagine what her editor did to help with this chaotic book.

I do love Wolf. What a great character. I also love the horses. As with the previous books, I enjoyed reading about how people might have lived in that time: what materials they used, how they might have domesticated animals, practiced medicine, etc. etc.

I also am assuming the author has made use of new discoveries about this period; I know she does do quite a bit of research. For this book she got to visit many of the caves with cave paintings.

BUT, major spoilers:

Inadequate is the word that best describes the entire book and especially its conclusion.
Profile Image for Misfit.
1,637 reviews289 followers
February 14, 2011
Tedious and repetitive. Since I don't want to spend anymore time than I have already and I'm too lazy to put in all the right HTML need for the visuals here at GR, you can read the full review here, http://misfitandmom.wordpress.com/201...

WARNING TO IPHONE USERS. This review and many of the comments have spoilers marked with the spoiler tag. Apparently the tags do not work with Iphones. Enter this review and read the comments at your own peril.

Quotes from advanced reader copy.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Lisa.
5 reviews
June 16, 2011
At 13 years old Ayla was my hero when I didn't have one. She stood up for herself, endured many trials, and was a survivor (just like I was)...this was in Clan of the Cavebear. She went on to continue surviving and found the love of her life in Valley of the Horses...I learned from Ayla that love making is beautiful with the man you care about. In The Mammoth Hunters She taught me the art of caring for other humans...her adopted Mamutoi family...yes that book had much angst between Ayla and Jondalar, but I understood it was so they could both realize how much they loved and cared for each other on EVERY level. I loved the silly banter between the people that introduced Ayla to a sense of humor and laughing. I even loved the arguing that showed the humanness of this ancient people. The Plains of Passage was long and drawn out, but at least it showed again Ayla's ability to rescue the people she loved...her caring when they met the River people...her pure humanity, and described breathtaking countryside. By the time we get to Shelters of Stone I believe Jean Auel is tired of writing and it shows. I often questioned whether she wrote the book herself. It was a let down and I have never read the book again...the others I have read at least 5 times a piece.

THE LAND OF PAINTED CAVES....As others have said TOO much repetion!! TOO much about the caves and the Mother Song. What little plot appeared was swiped from Auel's other books.

Here is where my HUGE disappointment comes in, because I could forgive all the repetion IF....the characters were not NON-Existent. There was not one person I came to care about in that book. TOO many characters were introduced but never added anything to the story. We never came to love any of the characters like we did with Iza, Creb, Uba, Durc, Talut, Neezie, Rydag, Deegie...etc. I even lost my love for Ayla...my hero! She fell flat in every aspect...no inventions, no heroics, no close connections with anyone. Those that she should have gotten close to...her daughter, Marthona, and The First, that never happened. She and Jondalar fall apart(AGAIN) over jealousy (AGAIN). And Ayla commits an act that is completely against her character.

Please JEAN AUEL!! Your fans need an explanation...I understand you are getting towards the end of your career...but we deserve to know why you stopped caring about a character that was so obviously loved by you in the first book!
Profile Image for Christine.
45 reviews1 follower
April 16, 2011
I don't usually write reviews, and I don't usually bother to star things that I hate, but this was god-awful. I don't know if the first five books were also this awful and I just was less discerning as a kid or what, but this was torture to get through. I guess there are spoilers? But really, there's nothing to spoil.

This is basically what happens:

People say: Ayla is foreign. She talks funny.
Ayla can read people's minds because she was raised by the Clan. Zelandoni can read people's minds because...um...she's fat?
Ayla is stunning. Everyone loves her. Except the people who don't, and they hate her, but they're just poopieheads.
Jondalar is the most handsome, charismatic man ever. Also, he has the world's biggest penis. But it's cool! Ayla can take it.
They have a pet wolf and some horses. That is weird shit, man. Clearly she's DIFFERENT than us.
They go in caves. They look at paintings in the caves. Who painted them? We don't know! This bison looks left. This one looks right. (Also, the cavemen don't know why the cavemen painted cave paintings? Really?)
They travel a lot. Zelandoni rides a travois. This is amazing. Everyone stares. Zelandoni likes being the center of attention.
They go in more caves. They look at more paintings.
Also, they go in caves and travel.
There are only two sex scenes (normally, whatever, but that is a large basis of the appeal of books 2-4 or 5 of this series.), and they are much shorter than normal.

There's also some really clunky exposition explaining the geology/geography/flora/fauna of the prehistoric world, and how people lived back then, which would be cool if it was less "I'm going to now interrupt this not-very-engaging story and lecture at you." And all of the characters have the emotional maturity of 12th graders, which is being generous, and most of them have the intelligence of 5th graders.

Profile Image for Lynzie.
13 reviews6 followers
January 20, 2012
As with everyone else, I really, really wish an editor had sat down with the author and said, "Why? Why all of the repetition? Why do you assume that your readers don't remember anything which happened in the previous books, let alone the previous chapters of this one? Why have you chosen to show such a high percentage of your action through dialogue? I'm going to take my big read pen and we're going to cut out 2/3 of this book, and your readers will thank me."

I've been reading this series for half of my life (The Clan of the Cave Bear is still my favorite book of all time), and I was really looking forward to this book, but I'm really having trouble slogging through it.

Maybe someday we will see a re-release with edited versions: I'm sure if that they did so the series could be reduced to three books total and would not have lost anything of value.
Profile Image for  ♥ Rebecca ♥.
1,361 reviews381 followers
September 21, 2022
1. The Clan of the Cave Bear ★★★★★
2. The Valley of Horses ★★★★★
3. The Mammoth Hunters ★★★★
4. The Plains of Passage ★★★★★
5. The Shelters of Stone ★★★★★
6. The Land of Painted Caves ★★★★

I still love Ayla and Jondalar of course, and this whole world. But this was one of my least favourite in the series. I was so upset that Ayla was so encouraged to become Zelandonii (one who serves the mother). I almost felt like they were trying to contain her wild spirit because they were afraid of her. I really wish she had not agreed and had stayed wild and free forever. Also Ayla and Jondalar drove me crazy with their jealousy in this like they did in The Mammoth Hunters. I thought they would have learned their lesson last time. They made a lot of the same mistakes again. But at least it was only the last 3 hours of the audio and not the whole book. This really wasnt the best way to end the series.
Profile Image for Claire.
601 reviews12 followers
April 9, 2011
Many of the criticisms levelled at this book by other reviewers have a certain amount of truth to them. To be honest not much does happen here, we get endless repetitions of the Mother's Song, lots of descriptions of cave art, and lots of mentions of the events of previous books (this last, I think, should have been edited out as, let's face it, most people aren't going to come to this book cold). Nevertheless it forms a very satisfying conclusion to the books, and I'm not sure where else Ayla could have ended up in her life given the events of the previous books. We see Ayla's journey towards life in the Zelandonia and the consequences that this causes, which many of us can empathise with. It's a realistic life with realistic problems - Ayla was never going to be able to return to all her loved ones or reclaim Durc, and we know that humans were pushing Neanderthals to the brink of extinction, so a complete reconciliation between the two groups was also not possible. We get to see some old friends and find out what happened to others. When we say goodbye to Ayla and Jondalar we leave on a high point and can imagine the happiness of the rest of their lives.

We also get to experience the wonderful art and culture created by our ancestors through Ayla's eyes, all backed up by archaeological evidence. I love the fact that when Auel started writing this series the experts were convinced that there had been no inter-breeding between Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons; now evidence suggests that all Europeans have some Neanderthal DNA. This is what makes the books so satisfying, and this last one is no different. And even that wretched song/poem gets a significant moment that nearly justifies the endless repetition throughout the last two books.
193 reviews
May 7, 2011
Other than finding out what happens to Ayla, Jondalar and Family, this was a terribly written book. It could easily have been edited down to 100-200 pages max. Endless recapping of past events, repetition of the mother's song, and mind numbing details about cave after cave after cave. So sad that such a wonderful saga had such an underwhelming finish.
Profile Image for Dianne.
1,600 reviews120 followers
July 3, 2023

With thirty years in the making, this series ends with quiet dignity. There is no one huge reveal; nothing terribly unexpected to fans, but many smaller reveals. These are the type that the lovers of this series have come to know and to expect. As usual, we have a wonderful narrative, albeit, somewhat repetitive as with the other books. This is neither the heart-shattering conclusion I had somewhat expected nor does it really tie anything up in a neat little bow. It simply –IS.


The Good---this MAY be read as a standalone. While others may think it is not, I do believe that while you will most definitely WANT to read the other novels, you don’t HAVE to, to enjoy this one. Ms. Auel gives enough back-story to answer most of your questions. We learn how Ayla is left clanless as well as brief explanations on just what her “clan” was all about> We find out how she lost her original family to an earthquake, how she found and trained the animals and how she met Jondular and came to travel with him. Ayla’s life from the time she was 5 till now is all re-capped in this novel. Your curiosity will be piqued enough by this book to go back and read the others though, especially the very first one “Clan of the Cave Bear” (or you can even watch the movie but with a lesser impact).

The Bad ---Ms. Auel makes the same mistake with this novel as she has done in the past and becomes overly fond of repetition. In addition, if something is described once, then it will be described at least five, six, or more times during the duration of the novel, and sometimes the very same chapter. Moreover, at 756 ARC pages, by the time you get halfway, it becomes a distraction. At times, I found myself sometimes skimming certain pages just to get to something new.

The Summary--- Ayla is still in training as an Acolyte to the One that is First Among Those Who Serve (Zelandonii). Ayla, her daughter Jonayla, and Jondular are taking First, on a sort of quest called the Donier Tour to further Ayla’s requirements to become a full Spiritual Leader for the Ninth Cave. On this tour, they view many of their most sacred places, which are painted caves and that is how the title comes to be.
There is much interaction throughout this novel with various caves and people along the way. Several Summer Meeting will take place and we even get to see some old friends from past books.

About five years or so will pass with a blink of any eye, it seems, and Ayla’s daughter Jonayla grows from an infant into a wonderful child and then we are off on a tour (one of many). From one painted cave to another, and another and another, etc. We seem to be seeing the same things in all the caves and while interesting, the repetition can become a bit tedious for those of us who are looking for a bit more action like was found in some of the previous books. I was surprised to see very little growth of the characters from what they were in the past novels. At least until the very last part of the book, when what can be considered the largest of the reveals comes to light. At about 403 pages and there still is no device being used that pushes the 6 book story to a conclusion. In fact, the novel never really concludes. There is no definitive ending. This makes me wonder if there will be further Earth’s Children books but with Jonayla as the protagonist instead of Jondular and Ayla.

Interestingly enough, I do see an interesting twist with Ayla and Jondular being perhaps, one of the very first couples where the wife ‘works’ outside the home with separate responsibilities that are not just about taking care of her man and child. I see Jondular chaffing a bit when Ayla has something she needs to do for the Zelandonii and he cannot come with her. Moreover, we soon find this to, unfortunately, be very true. I found this to be a fascinating bit of by-play for this time period and love how Ms. Auel gives them a bit of a “modern” twist in the midst of the Ice Age.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
823 reviews18 followers
April 12, 2011
750+ pages, and what happened? Well, we read the Mother's Song eighteen bazillion times ... and read people's long-winded introductions and recitations of titles ... and read descriptions of the sacred painted caves ... complete with people (and a wolf) relieving themselves in these sacred places. Lots of repetition (from previous books, from this book) and not much action. (Ayla's daughter had chicken pox for HALF A PARAGRAPH! Why even bother if it's clearly so unimportant?)

And the 'twist' of Jondalar being unfaithful with the ex-fiancee that he hates just came out of nowhere. Haven't we spent the last three books establishing that Ayla is the only one for him, and that he doesn't want to sleep with anyone else? (But it's OK because he has a lot of FEELINGS that he keeps bottled up to keep from being OVERWHELMED.) And Ayla's great Gift of Knowledge (that it takes men and women having sex to create babies) is going to lead to more monogamy (and control over the sexual behaviour of partners) which is the 'ideal' that Ayla and Jondalar were set up to be showing us all along.

This is supposed to be the last book (so the cover says) and yet nothing felt resolved to me.


Edited to add: I do love cave paintings/carvings and I wish there had been some artists' renderings of some of the art she described.

If you want to see the painted caves she talks so much about, try these links:
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Sandy.
656 reviews22 followers
March 23, 2011
Just won this on GoodReads First Reads and am looking forward to it arriving. I'm hoping it will be more like Clan of the Cave Bear and Valley of the Horses than like the following three in the series which I remember as having gotten repetitive. But I never could resist following what happens to Ayla!

Got through it! I have read very few Advanced Reading Editions of books and I can only hope that some hardcore editing is/was done before the book is released. The repetition is inexcusable and drags the story down. It's like she wrote many little segments each as a standalone and then just stuck them together. I kept waiting for something to really "happen-" for some story to develop. The last fourth of the book gets a little more interesting, but it was "too little too late" for my taste. Overall, an unsatisfying conclusion to a series that began with such promise.
Profile Image for Jennie.
422 reviews4 followers
April 6, 2011
Boy, was I dissapointed with this one. This was in solid 1 to 2 star territory until Part 3, which is really where all the action takes place. That final 250 pages brings back old friends and presents new challenges while wrapping up the series with a satisfying ending. That being said, the first 500 pages are overly wordy, repetitive (not repetitive from earlier books in the series, repetitive within those 500 pages) and, quite frankly, a bit boring. There are only so many descriptions of painted caves that one can read before skimming over the rest. In the end I felt like, "we get it. lots of painted caves. red dots. bison. horses. some outlined. some filled in. got it." While reading that first 500 pages I even felt like the author kept repeating herself and dragging out the descriptions simply in order to increase word count, since it clearly added no value to the story. It was definitely Part 3 (the final 250 pages) that upped this conclusion to the Earth's Children series to three stars and I'm glad I read it. I only wish I didn't have to suffer through the first 500 pages to get to it.
Profile Image for Sarah Martinez.
106 reviews1 follower
March 31, 2011
A heartbreaking disappointment. This wasn't a work of literature, as much as a tiresome example of the copy/paste function. Page after page after page of repetitious descriptions and rehash of facts loyal fans already know. (And are irrelevant to new readers being introduced to the series through this book.) Absolutely no character development of the beloved heroine, Ayla. No conflict--or true plot for that matter--until the final third of the book. And, sadly, the story line that finally emerges there is dealt with in a very two-dimensional fashion--not at all engaging even to diehard fans. Ayla, Jondalar, Jonayla and other beloved characters deserved so much better than this. I'm very glad I purchased this book on Kindle, because I will never buy a printed version to finish out my Earth's Children collection. In my mind, the series ended with the previous volume, "Shelters of Stone." The imaginary world I created for Ayla while waiting all these years for the "finale" of the series is far more satisfying than what Auel churned out.
Profile Image for Sandy Vaughan.
257 reviews23 followers
March 18, 2012
The end of my marathon listening is both happy and sad. Happy to see what Ayla and her family are up to but sad because at the end, I want more. I want to know more of their adventures. Yes, there is an end but I love them and want to see them go on having adventures and grandchildren...ok, I'm greedy!

I've tried to come up with a good summary without giving away too much. Finally, I decided to share a bit of a publishers summary:

"...Whatever the obstacles, Ayla’s inventive spirit produces new ways to lessen the difficulties of daily life: searching for wild edibles to make delicious meals, experimenting with techniques to ease the long journeys the Zelandoni must take, honing her skills as a healer and a leader. And then, there are the Sacred Caves, the caves that Ayla’s mentor - the Donier, the First of the Zelandonia - takes her to see. These caves are filled with remarkable art - paintings of mammoths, lions, aurochs, rhinoceros, reindeer, bison, bear. The powerful, mystical aura within these caves sometimes overwhelms Ayla and the rituals of initiation bring her close to death. But through those rituals, Ayla gains A Gift of Knowledge so important that it will change the world.

Spellbinding drama, meticulous research, fascinating detail, and superb narrative skill combine to make The Land of Painted Caves a captivating, utterly believable creation of a long ago civilization that serves as an astonishing end to this beloved saga."

I hope you will become as much involved in this epic of the evolution of mankind with Ayla as the carrier as have I. For those who are interested in the archeological finding put into story form, this is a series for you. For those who enjoy an epic story of survival in a hostel land, this is a series for you. My final hope is that I have stirred your curiosity enough to peek your desire have your own marathon.
Profile Image for Lila.
599 reviews186 followers
May 5, 2022
Always dreading this book.

The only reason I give this book three stars and not one is because I love the series, but I still HATE this book. Why OH WHY did Jean Auel have to make their relationship like this? We see Jondalar's jealousy in previous books but he himself admits that he needs to improve his communication skills to overcome it. Yet why didn't he even try?

For a society which seems to be about worshipping women and the Mother, it seems very chauvinistic. It's alright to share pleasures with someone else but STILL there is that difference when a woman does it. Because she needs to appeal to the man's ego. It seems Ayla gives much more in this relationship than Jondalar and I hate it.

Also, WHY DID SHE HAVE TO SAY MEN ALSO HELP IN CONCEIEVING CHILDREN!! We all know what happens. I was just enjoying a little era when women were meant to be 'superior' because of this. We all know society deteriorated after and I didn't need this in the series. This could have been left for some blurry, cloudy future.
Profile Image for sj.
404 reviews81 followers
April 16, 2012
Wow. So, I know I'm going to do a full Trashy Tuesday write up on this one in a few weeks, but I feel the need to jot down some thoughts on it while this...whatever it was is fresh in my mind.

First off, I'd like to say that I give MAD props to Jean M Auel for finishing this series at her age. HOWEVER, and I feel kind of bad saying this, but part of me wishes that she'd not finished.

I remember the feeling I had when Stephen King got hit by that van, thinking Roland was going to die with him. I still worry that GRRM will die before he finishes ASoIaF, because those are stories and characters that I am/was deeply invested in. Ayla is no Daenerys. Jondalar is no Eddie Dean.

Parts of this book (the parts that weren't directly pasted from other novels in the series) were decent, but we didn't really get any of the answers we were led to believe would be hidden within this monstrosity. There was no further interaction with the Clan, we still don't know if Noria had a baby with Jondalar's eyes, and no further mention was made of Baby.

Instead we get page after page after page of cave paintings, Jondy cheating on Ayla (repeatedly, apparently, although we're only witnesses to one BJ) and Ayla picking the worst possible person to revengef**k...oh, and everyone accepts Ayla's drug induced addition to the Mother Song that puts the fact that men cause babies out in the public consciousness.

I will say that I have not laughed so hard in quite some time as I did at "HE'S MAKING MY BABY!"

Anyway. I haven't decided how many stars to give this yet. It might be one, if I'm generous, I might bump it up to two. Not sure.

Written about for Trashy Tuesday here.
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